Sunday, September 14, 2008
The "FSE" and other "arrangements"......संगणकीय बघणे व कांदेपोहे
Scenes from a household. Sometime in the early sixties.
A visit from a family you never met or saw before in your life. A flurry of household cleaning and organizing. The best spreads are on display, textilewise and foodwise.
Cut to the living room, where the elders sit with smug faces like they have been through all this before. The visiting family has one non-smug member , in whose interests this visit is happening. Embroideries on cushions are admired, the mother of the house breathes a sigh of relief that everything is happening as planned. She points out to the curtain where the daughter of the house has excelled at patchwork stuff. a Krishna and Gopi scene. Approving nods, the non-smug member trying to glance through the said curtain, when lo behold, it parts, and a tray of Pohe ( a delicious snack made from pressed rice flakes) appears, followed by a set of bangled arms that belong to a smart girl, who pretends she has made it all herself. Greetings, peripheral glances on the side, and everyone sort of settles down to size each other up. The girl's uncle who is the actual link between the two families, clears his throat, as a preamble, and the system kind of kicks in.
Like the Civil Services, this is like the Family Services Exam(FSE). The girl's education is ascertained, commented upon, and her hobbies are asked, whereupon she is cajoled into breaking forth into a song, and everyone tries to read a secret meaning into it. The visiting boy nods his head in rhythm to hide is nervousness. The food is appreciated, the girls cooking is favorably imbibed, some small talk is made before the boy is asked if he wants to ask her any questions. I have heard of cases where the puffed up chap has asked the girl if she new what metaphysics was. She answered that she was a student of arts, quietly docking off a point against the chap. Some guys ask about hobbies and stuff. At some point the boys mother thinks enough freedom has been granted to the younger members and the visit ends with promises to get in touch.
In the intervening years(70's and 80's), as a concession to the increasing success of women in education, and industry, the Pohe ritual was followed up with letting the two young people talk in a non-parental, non-pohe environment. By and by , this led to the two meeting up several times, on their own, their parents always aware of the meeting times and meeting places. Decisions were reached, expenses and other things discussed and the parental stamp of approval was bequeathed to the couple, among other things from the girl's side to the boy's, which we don't talk about here.
In the 21st century, if you leave aside those marriages that happen between schoolmates, workmates, and folks who meet each other for years together in buses, trains , temples, churches, gyms, saving each other from slipping on banana peels , escalators etc, things haven't changed much.
Today the pohe-ridden living room ritual has been replaced by the emoticon riddled scrap. Scores of young people, whose communication with the opposite sex is restricted to admiring glances from a distance, accompanied by comments amongst friends, lose their inhibition, as they scrap away to glory on social networking sites. You can talk more in scraps to people you half know, than face to face , with people you full-well-know.
A glance at the scraps written by some, and the communities they subscribe to, actually tells you about their mentality. Never mind their posted photos. The language and obssessive attitude reveals all. There is a benefit in knowing all this as opposed to finding out after marriage that the person is a secret creep.
A look at the list of friends and a perusal of their profiles, can tell you, if the person is there for fun, or serious meetings. Sometimes you end up knowing people in common. One step towards the final goal. Birthday greetings. Festival wishes. At some point , a planned accidental meeting after work or class.
We don't have socials ,dances, dating et al, in the sort of milieu in which I live. Communication with the opposite sex is normally innocent,free, and related to your life stage and hobbies, and encouraged.
Like in the West, sometimes, these things go to their logical conclusion. Unlike the West, us middle class types, still frown on singles bars (or any kind of bars), discotheques, weekend outings, and other methods of randomized meeting. Strange , because, in the West, these probably take the place of the Pohe Ritual (without the parents, curtains etc).
At the end of the day, these are "arrrangement" systems, all in place.
East or West, parental concerns are the same. Arrangement systems vary. Degrees of freedom at a given instant in time vary.
In a way, everything is "arranged".
Except the mind of this young girl, impressed with movies, stunned by the articles in magazines, interviews with celebrities, fibs from ambitious friends, blinded by MTV, as she stops while having dinner, gives her parents a surprised look, and says ," But I will not have an arranged marriage.......!"